Six months after its launch, in September 2020, Telefónica already covered 80% of the Spanish population with its 5G network. At the end of the first quarter, the installed nodes covered more than 37 million inhabitants and a total of 1,253 municipalities. In the coming months, the deployment will focus on completing this coverage, reaching cities with over 20,000 inhabitants and smaller towns. This same deployment efficiency runs parallel to that of the rest of Telefónica’s key markets: Brazil, Germany and the United Kingdom.
“This new generation of mobile telephony allows ultra-fast connectivity and with differential capacities in terms of bandwidth, both upstream and downstream, very low latency and the ability to connect to millions of devices,” explains Juan Cambeiro, project manager of 5G Innovation with Telefónica Spain customer. The great transformation that 5G brings will make possible a world in which most of our everyday objects will be “elements connected to each other and to us, with a greater bandwidth, and a speed of milliseconds”.
One of the sectors that is most clearly finding the value of the opportunities that 5G offers is that of the industry, which is facing a radical transformation towards digitization and greater efficiency, mobility and flexibility in its processes. In this sense, 5G, combined with fiber and other technologies such as virtual reality or artificial intelligence, is decisively driving its digitization and progress towards Industry 4.0.
5G ensures “capacity”, something fundamental in the world of industry and business, “transforming all its business processes at an accelerated rate, with greater flexibility and efficiency, and where critical wireless communications are key,” he says. Cambeiro. Thanks to 5G capabilities, linked to fiber and cross-cutting technologies, such as edge computing or the network slicing, Industry 4.0 use cases, tourism, entertainment, mobility or logistics, among many others, will also be enabled. More than 700 companies around the world have contributed to 5G technology, not only companies from the telco sector, but from many other sectors (automotive, agriculture, electronics, etc.). “All in order to ensure that the next generation of mobile telephony meets the necessary requirements for the transformation of the business fabric,” he adds.
However, the focus is not just business. “5G has in its definition the needs of society and the ordinary citizen, such as safer roads and vehicles, more efficient cities with better services, health, more effective and immersive education anywhere, etc. Ultimately, it means the execution of Telefónica’s commitment to society and to the digitization of the country within the digital pact ”, explains Juan Cambeiro.
Telefónica is making a large deployment of 5G in Spain, but also in countries like Brazil, where Vivo has launched the technology in eight Brazilian cities, such as Porto Alegre, Curitiba, or Rio de Janeiro, while continuing to invest in expansion and quality. of your mobile service network. In Germany, where O2 began rolling out 5G in October 2020, customers in 60 cities are already enjoying very high data rates with very short response times, as the company accelerates the expansion of the network to deliver national coverage in 2025. In parallel, the deployment of 5G in the United Kingdom already reaches more than 180 cities.
Challenges of 5G
But 5G still has some challenges ahead. In the first place, Cambeiro points out that “it is necessary that both the technology and the spectrum are fully available”. In this sense, and with regard to Spain, in 2021 two important milestones will be met to promote the deployment: the auction of the 700 MHz band, and the reordering in the 3500 MHz band. the 3.5 Ghz bands, the only 5G band already licensed to operators, and the medium bands (1800-2100 MHz) that currently host 4G and on which the use of NR (New Radio) equipment allows the operation of both technologies. Throughout 2021, predictably, the 700 Mhz band will be incorporated, once the auction is resolved.
The person in charge of 5G Innovation projects at Telefónica Spain emphasizes that “the full adoption of mobile technology comes with the maturation of the entire ecosystem, both by technology manufacturers, as well as by the deployments of the operators, as well as by the availability of all frequencies, by the developers of new services, and by the development of new devices in those industrial and business environments ”. These are machine-to-machine communication devices, connected industrial tools and robots, connected vehicles, devices made for outdoors and harsh environments, and a long list of devices that will make their debut in the world of mobile communications with the arrival of 5G.
Finally, a significant investment will be required, which goes hand in hand with the complexity of this technology. 5G involves a complete transformation of the network and the way it is deployed, a challenge for both operators and the rest of the agents that make up this ecosystem. “Technological complexity and investment are balanced if we manage to develop an ecosystem of new services that arise thanks to the differential benefits of 5G, and that bring out new sources of income. This is the key to a sustainable development of 5G, and it is really the great challenge that it poses to us, ”says Cambeiro.